During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, seniors may sleep more than usual or occasionally wake up disoriented after naps. As the disease progresses, sleep patterns often include waking at night and compensating for missed sleep during the day, which can be disruptive for caregivers as well. New research into light therapy suggests there may be ways to enhance sleep quality for seniors with Alzheimer’s.
Resetting the Biological Clock
In healthy humans, periods of sleeping and wakefulness are governed by circadian rhythms, brain functions that operate as an internal biological clock. Circadian rhythms are triggered by cues from the environment to induce periods of wakefulness and sleep. Studies suggest lighting, when applied at the right time and in the right spectrum, can alter circadian rhythms. For instance, the body’s core temperature usually drops to its lowest point about two hours before a person wakes up. Bright light provided before this time period has been shown to reset the biological clock so the person wakes up later in the day.
Disturbances in a senior’s circadian rhythms can reduce or prevent the recuperative sleep cycle. It appears that catching up on sleep during the day doesn’t result in the quality of sleep that’s beneficial for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.
Red & Blue Light Studies
A study of seniors with Alzheimer’s who were exposed to red and blue light at different times suggests light patterns may restore productive sleep patterns. Participants in the study slept better for 2–4 hours after light exposure and were more alert during the day. Alternating light patterns within a 24-hour cycle may be more effective than static lighting or dimmer conditions, according to results from another study.
Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Boca Raton Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.
A 24-Hour Lighting Scheme
After conducting a comprehensive review of existing light therapy studies, architectural engineer Mariana Figueiro suggested a lighting scheme that provides different levels of illumination at certain times of the day might be beneficial for older adults with Alzheimer’s. His proposed 24-hour lighting scheme includes bright lights during the day and two hours of soft lighting from LED lights in the early evening. Night-lights are also included to help seniors avoid falling if they get out of bed during the night.
If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of in-home care families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Fine-Tuning Light Therapy
Light therapy has mixed results for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Some respond well to light exposure. However, in one small group study, some seniors with Alzheimer’s found the light too stimulating. Previous studies have also produced mixed results, with light therapy enhancing the quality of sleep for some individuals and having no effect on others, suggesting the need for a personalized approach to determine an effective level of exposure.
Related research confirms similar results with blue night-lights rather than bright white or yellow ones. One theory suggests blue light replicates the blue of the sky, effectively flipping the “on switch” within the body. Further research may help architects better design or modify seniors’ homes with lighting patterns more likely to promote normal sleep patterns.
The lack of restful sleep experienced by aging adults with Alzheimer’s has a negative impact on their health, but it can also affect their caregivers’ wellbeing. Seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease aren’t the only ones who can benefit from Alzheimer’s care. Boca Raton families have much to gain as well, especially if they’re the ones currently providing care. Professional Alzheimer’s caregivers can watch over your loved one, giving you the chance to relax, focus on other responsibilities, and prevent burnout. Trust your loved one’s care to the professionals at Home Care Assistance. To create a customized home care plan for your loved one, call (561) 826.9282 today.